How Consulting Firms Should Approach Sustainability

September 10, 2021

How Consulting Firms Should Approach Sustainability

According to new research from Environmental Financial Consulting Group, over 25% of engineering and consulting firms have already put some sustainability initiatives in place and over 33% are starting to look at ways to do so. And with good reason! Sound sustainability practices can help expand firms into new markets, attract talent, reduce operating costs, and help your overall bottom line.

We recently sat down with Dr. Andreas Georgoulias, Director of Sustainability and Risk at Environmental Financial Consulting Group (EFCG) for a discussion on how firms should approach sustainability and what are some best practices to build a sustainability practice.

Here are a few important takeaways:

1. Define Sustainability for Your Firm

Sustainability can mean different things to different people. Andreas explained, “The common core across all the definitions of sustainability is that we should leave this world a better place, if not the same as we found it.” This can include action towards environmental impacts such as reduced carbon emissions, water conservation or social impacts such as addressing health, safety, education and diversity. For firms just staring the journey, Andreas advises them to keep it simple. “There are many frameworks out there, and most of them have dozens of questions and parameters. If a firm is just starting, we advise the firm to keep it simple.” Choose something simple that can be easily defined and measured. When starting to put a framework of sustainability together, start from looking and evaluating your core values and build from there. What are your values, and what are your client’s values, and how does this come together?

2. Tie It to Your Bottom Line

Andreas recommends that, “Your sustainability initiatives should make business sense today. It shouldn’t be a benefit of action or be something that the firm is doing to meet an obligation it has to society. These are very important, but not the only drivers.” Sustainability should connect to the top line revenue generation of a firm as well as to its people and its culture. In many cases your sustainability initiatives can help you reduce certain costs such as energy, water and transportation or it can help you avoid certain pitfalls such as project delays or a negative reputation in the community.


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3. Set Goals and Communicate Clearly

Set clear goals for sustainability and governance and communicate those goals as part of what your firm is doing internally as well as in its services to clients. Develop clear KPIs and establish a plan on how to measure and evaluate results. Create best practice documents defining how to execute on those goals and share these with all stakeholders so there is a clear plan of action and goals.

4. Integrate Sustainability Into Your Firm

Create a team to oversee this initiative with a goal to educate leadership and employees within your firm as well as your clients. Host sustainability workshops to address benefits and define and implement good practices. Listen to what project managers are hearing from their clients and train your staff on how to address questions on sustainability.

5. Leverage Technology

“Technology is a big driver in helping companies achieve sustainability goals,” according to Andreas. “Many firms are attempting to reduce their carbon emissions by becoming more efficient and/or moving their systems to the cloud. We are seeing a big effort in using technology to consolidate and understand their impact across their operations.”

Technology such as Professional Services Automation (PSA), collaboration and project management software can help to streamline a project and in turn allow firms to become more efficient, which can be directly tied to sustainability.

Many firms are reducing their digital carbon footprint by moving applications from on-premises to the cloud. New leaner and greener data centers are often more efficient due to significant economies of scale.

And Speaking of Sustainability …

To hear more on sustainability from Dr. Andreas Georgoulias, Director of Sustainability and Risk at the Environmental Financial Consulting Group and learn ways your firm can become more sustainable and what steps you should take when building out a sustainability practice you can watch the on-demand webinar here.